Sunday, December 05, 2010

Nov 20, 2010

Dear Sis~
Perhaps you've seen or read about the destitute homeless Arizona man who found an abandoned backpack containing $3,300 in cash.  It wasn't a lot of money, unless you're broke and living on the streets (or in a shelter) but this guy took the high road; he went out of his way to learn who the backpack belonged to (an Arizona State University student) and returned it to him.  A story like this makes each reader ask themselves what they would (honestly) do in that situation, keeping in mind that this guy was dead broke, a recovering alcoholic, had lost his driver's license due to multiple DUI arrests and was homeless.  It also makes you reconsider the stereotypes we carry in our minds.  How much would you wager that the ex-alcoholic, ex-convict homeless man would return the money?
Last night I watched an interesting documentary on NBC titled Harmony, produced and narrated by Prince Charles (yes, that Prince Charles of England, Prince of Wales).  I knew Charles was an environmentalist, but I didn't know how deeply and passionately he feels about it (and acts upon it).  The film was, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, about saving the planet through creative and substantial changes in our thoughts (about our place in the universe) and our behavior  (toward the earth).  He is totally committed to this, it isn't some Royal hobby, and I was impressed by his passion, and more importantly, by his actions.  This has become his life, and he is acquitting himself well. 
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and we'll be getting our yearly "Thanksgiving Day Supper."  Back in the day, it used to be a real, substantial meal that was special: a tray full of real turkey meat, fresh warm dinner rolls with butter, good stuffing, pumpkin pies, fresh vegetables, hard boiled eggs, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, salad, and sweet eggnog to drink.  All of this was cooked by us in our prison kitchen, and the food was grown and raised on prison farms.  It was all entirely in-house, at minimal cost to taxpayers.  But, many years ago, the Dept of Corrections (DOC) sold off all our farms and foolishly began buying all our food from free-world vendors, at much greater costs to taxpayers.  So, our food has gotten worse and worse, and the portions have become progressively smaller.  Why, you ask, would the DOC do away with our prison farms when they were so cost effective (free inmate labor working on free state land)?  It was, and always is, all about graft anmd corruption.  All our prisons spend millions and millions of dollars buying food from vendors.  These are serious contracts and allow prison officials to receive big kickbacks, while buying rotten food.  The corruption and graft with the DOC is deep and wide.  They do it with umpunity because they know nobody cares about what goes on in the DOC; it's a backwater that nobody ever investigates, an old-boy network that is like a parrallel universe.  If any serious (and independent) investigators or inspector generals ever swooped in here and really investigated, the corruption uncovered would be staggering.  So, our Thanksgiving meal will be no different from any other meal; rotten (and I meean that literally, we get rotten potatoes every single day) potatoes, cabbage, a single, thin slice of "turkey ham" (like a slice of bologna or salami), two slices of stale bread, and maybe a cookie or piece of sweet potato pie.  It's pitiful.
Our new governor, Rick Scott, claims to be all about saving money, cutting expenses, and privatizing everything.  Well, here's a tip for him that will save millions of taxpayer dollars:  First, appoint a real, serious professional Secretary of the Dept of Corrections, instead of the typical political hack that gets the job as a "favor" for political services rendered.  The DOC's annual budget is north of 3 Billion dollars, and taxpayers deserve someone in charge who can grasp that.  Second, every prison in Florida should be (and can be) made totally self sufficient in food production within three years.  We used to have our own farms, dairies, poultry farms, butcher sops, cattle ranches and hog farms.  This can be done but will be resisted by those who are invested in the current kickback/contract system.  Third, every prison in Florida should be energy self sufficient.  Solar panels on the roofs, wind turbines on every prison ground, geothermal systems, etc.... This requires up-front investments, but the feds will help pay for it in the form of Energy Grants and the pay outs will be quick and substantial.  These things can be done, but only if you hire an aggressive, intelligent Secretary of the DOC who has vision and determination.  With 100,000+ prisoners and a huge, bloated staff bureaucracy, an innovative DOC Secretary could save hundreds of millions of dollars that are currently wasted through incompetence, graft and outright theft.  That's my two-cents worth, anyway.
Love, Bill

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happy Christmas Bill!